So you’ve started planning your event. How do you market it without breaking the bank?
With the proliferation of smartphones, information is available on the go and around the clock, making digital marketing more important than ever in reaching your best audiences.
You’ve decided to hold an event. You know who will want to attend the event. You’ve figured out when and where to have your event. You know your budget for the event. You know all of these things, perhaps because you have already read Everyone’s Guide to Great Event Planning.
Now, how do you advertise the value of your event to your prospective attendees? This is often the most difficult question to answer for many event planners, and one that we have a lot of experience in answering. It’s called event marketing.
There are many channels you can use to market your event, both online and off. The best marketing strategies for your event will largely depend on the audience and number of attendees you are trying to attract, and your marketing history with your existing audience.
Here are Convention Nation’s Four Essential Online Channels for Event Marketing
- Event Website: Your Online Home
- Email Marketing: Industry Standard
- Social Media: Untapped Opportunity
- Marketing Partners: Smart Collaboration
- Bonus: Do it the Old-Fashioned Way
Event Website: Your Online Home
The first thing you should do is create an event website or webpage. This process can begin right after the event details are established. It’s the quickest and easiest way to direct potential attendees to information about the event. If you have an existing website, try to create a dedicated landing page and promote it prominently or via a pop-up. If you are unable to make your own event website or webpage, you may want to consider creating an Eventbrite page and promote the link to it from your website. You can do this at no charge if your event is free, but Eventbrite charges a small fee for paid tickets sold through the site. There are other registration software options--but we’ll cover those at another time.
Search Engine Optimize (SEO) Your Event Page:
The goal of search engine optimization is to make it easier for attendees to find your website or event registration page when searching for your event online. You may have spoken with someone about your event, but they can’t remember the exact link of the website. They are likely to search for something close to it, and need to be able to find your site when they do.
Email Marketing: Industry Standard
Before the Event:
You’re probably most familiar with email marketing practices, since email marketing is the most common online channel for event promotion. If you have an email marketing list, this is an inexpensive way to get your event message out to a large number of people at once. Consider the size of your list and how much email marketing you are already doing. If you have just one list with a general audience and this message applies to everyone on it, or don’t already send out a lot of emails, go ahead and send the event email to everyone on your list. However, if your regular list is large enough to segment and still reach a significant amount of users, you already send a lot of emails, or you have a very specific target audience for your event, then you will want to divide your list and pick only the recipients that fit the target audience. You should be able to do this easily if you’re working with a Content Management System (CMS) or Association Management Software (AMS).
Email Marketing After the Event:
Email marketing after the event is also a key component to your event plan. It is beneficial if you are planning on holding this event again, and will leave a good impression with attendees for other events you may plan in the future.
Social Media: Untapped Opportunity
Events and social media go hand-in-hand. Promote your event with social media to generate buzz and build a bigger audience of attendees. It is important to use these social channels before, during and after the event to make the most of them.
- The first step in using Twitter to promote your event is to create an event hashtag. Pick a hashtag that’s short and descriptive (preferably around six characters), and unique to your event if possible. You will always use this same hashtag in everything you post about the event. Hubspot put together a simple guide for creating a hashtag on Twitter for marketing that you can reference here.
- Tweet. A lot. Most people aren’t on Twitter all day long, and will miss most of your tweets. Start tweeting well before the event and do so frequently. You only have 140 characters to fill, so you should be able to fill your feed with several different topics. You don’t need to be pushy in your tweets, just simple updates about speakers that have signed on, a registration count milestone (e.g. We’re up to 300 attendees for #eventhashtag! Can’t wait to see you in Chicago!), pictures of swag or event organizers working hard on the venue are subtle reminders about your event.
- During the event, have someone tweet live updates. Your attendees will be following that hashtag, so tweet interesting content for them. And they’re more likely to continue a conversation about your event if they feel they’re being listened to.
Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn:
Although they aren’t as interactive in real-time as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are good social media resources to market your event through as well. Some of the same ideas from the Twitter campaign above will apply to Facebook, and are listed again below for the sake of completeness. Also make sure to use your signature event image logo (as discussed above) to represent your event on all of these outlets.
- Post photos on your Facebook and Instagram pages during and after the event, and tag the people in them. Share them on Facebook and use the Twitter hashtag.
- After the event post thank you’s and a photo gallery with pictures of your speakers, sponsors, attendees, and anyone that stood out during the event.
- LinkedIn doesn’t have an events app, specifically. However, you can still do a little bit of promotion about your event on the platform. You can post a link to the website and a short description about it on your wall. You can create a special LinkedIn group just for event participants. Just be sure to keep this one simple and professional, and only use where relevant.
Marketing Partners: Smart Collaboration
If everything suggested so far sounds terribly overwhelming, we understand. There’s a good chance you don’t have a big enough network or enough people on your team to market your event to everyone you hope to reach. If you do, you are in the wrong job and should become an event planner! If you need help like the rest of us, there are several ways to leverage event partners, sponsors, and attendees to promote your event.
Marketing Through Sponsors, Vendors, and Attendees:
- Create badges that attendees can add to their websites that link back to the event webpage. Use an Event Speaker, Attendee or Sponsor image and keep it simple. Include HTML that they can copy and paste onto their site with a link back to your event. You can also make these into buttons that you hand out at the show that attendees, speakers and sponsors can wear to distinguish themselves.
- Affiliate Partners can be a good resource for larger events. You can create a promotion code for each partner and speaker that they can use when referring attendees to the event. You track and can pay them a referral fee for their attendees.
Marketing Through Media and Industry Websites:
There are many good avenues out there that will list your event for free. These are great for getting the message out there and creating inbound links to your event webpage.
- Submit your event to event promotion websites. Event websites such as Conventionnation.com are a great resource for getting exposure to your event online. You can leverage their existing customer network and Google search rankings and advertise to a much broader audience than your association or email list. Most of these sites will allow you to create a basic event listing for free, as it helps them build a better experience for their community of attendees and vendors looking for events.
- Submit your event to industry associations. Industry and trade association websites are mixed in their acceptance and pricing of listings. Identify the ones that benefit you the most and then contact them directly. Chambers of commerce are often more likely to post events for free as long as they are relevant to their communities, so be sure to contact them as well.
Event Marketing the Old-Fashioned Way
To this point we’ve mostly covered online marketing strategies. They are often the most cost effective and easiest way to reach a large audience at one time. However, there are still several good old fashioned in-person marketing techniques that can be very effective.
- Attend events with a similar audience as yours and talk about your upcoming event.
- Sponsor a lunch, meeting, retreat, etc. and use the visibility to promote your event.
- Promote something cool (like a giveaway at the event) that people will talk about beforehand. If the event is a corporate event, put the door prize or raffle ticket prize up for display in the office. It will create buzz by giving people something to talk about and to serve as a reminder as people walk past it.
- Talk about your event at professional networking events you attend and follow up with an event informational email to the people that show interest.
This list is by no means exhaustive with how creative you can get in marketing your event. However, it will put you on a solid path toward bringing attendees through the door at your event.
Use these four essential online marketing channels - 1) Event Website 2) Email Marketing 3) Social Media and 4) Marketing Through Partners as a guide when planning your next event. Mix and match the strategies that work best your intended audience.
These strategies are relatively inexpensive and will fit into most budgets. Their return in investment is well-worth taking the time to put them in place as part of your event planning process. Go marketing and go event planning!
To view our detailed guide on using digital channels to market your event by downloading our whitepaper.